Building a wardrobe you love is an investment in yourself. The quarantine is the perfect time to learn or elevate how you care for your special pieces. Show some love to your wardrobe and it will love you back! Here is our essential guide on how to care for your clothing and accessories.

• Supplies & Philosophy
• Hand Washing at Home
• Removing Stains
• Washing & Drying Knits
• Caring for Plisse
• Shoes & Bags
• Repairs & Alterations

A small investment in an arsenal at home can go a long way. Hand washing detergents, sewing kits, stain removers and shoe care kits can extend the life of your favorite pieces and reduce your dry cleaning/repair bills. There are a ton of products out there, here are a few that we've used and liked.

Hand Washing DetergentThere are a lot of great options such as Tangent, Dedcool, The Laundress or Mr. Black. It is also helpful to have a small sponge for hand washing bras and a collapsible drying rack. 

Stain Removal ProductsPortable stain removers such as Tide to Go Pens and Shout Wipes are lifesavers when you're out or if you need to touch up something small. Oxi Clean and Tangent make good general all purpose stain removers. We would also recommend having a spray stain remover on hand - Sonett is a great eco-friendly one. For ultra-natural stain removal, you'll need hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, white vinegar and lemons. 

Shoe Care Kit – There are many kits out there, such as Burstenhaus Redecker, Jason Markk or Tangent. You can purchase items as a kit or buy separately - shoe brushes, leather conditioner, polish and polishing cloth. Store them all together in a small box or travel pouch. RetaW and Mr. Black also make shoe and sneaker cleaner and refresh sprays. 

Small Sewing Kit – Great for simple repairs like replacing a button and fixing a torn seam or hem. If you’ve never sewn before, it’s surprisingly easy. Youtube has many how-to videos and Etsy is a good place to find a simple sewing/repair kit.

Unless removing a stain (more on that later), wait until you have multiple pieces ready for a hand wash so you can wash them together, which will save time and water.

1) Prep a Container – Clean your sink/tub or large container to make sure there's no kitchen or bathroom residue remaining.
2) Fill the sink/tub – Use lukewarm or cool water, as it's filling up, add the detergent under the running water. 
3) Submerge – Submerge your items and agitate in the water with your hands. You can let them soak, but not for more than 30 minutes.
4) Rinse – Rinse well using lukewarm or cool water.
5) Press Out Extra Water – Simply press the item between your hands or against the sink to remove excess water, do not wring or twist the garment.
6) Dry – Lay flat on a towel or hang on a collapsible drying rack to dry.

Other tips:
• For tights, it's easiest to wash multiple pairs together
• For bras, it's nice to have a small clean (dedicated) hand washing sponge
• Wash like colors together
• Be cautious when hand washing silks - some silks wash well, others do not
• Always check the label, know your content abbreviations and washing symbols


Small Stains – For small stains on garments that aren't dry clean only, start with a simple soap and warm water mixture to see if you can remove the stain. If that doesn't work, use one of the stain removers mentioned above to spot treat. Start small and test an area of the fabric first if you can, such as inside the hem. Make sure it dries clear and doesn't stain the fabric.

Large Stains – For larger stains on garments try to treat the stain as soon as possible with a stain remover and agitate it with a toothbrush or stain brush, then soak the garment for up to 30 minutes. Wash and repeat as necessary.

Silk Fabrics – Be careful with silk fabrics, as water can sometimes stain silk. Some silks wash well and others do not. Follow the instructions on the care label and if you're not sure, then take it to a dry cleaner. If you are treating a stain on a delicate fabric,  your approach/tools should be delicate.

Oil Stains – First, try laying the garment flat and sprinkling some plain baking soda on the stain. After letting it set for a few hours, brush the baking soda away. Repeat as needed or use a stain remover that's formulated for oil stains.

Deodorant Transfer – Take the hem of the garment and rub the fabric lightly on itself until the stain is gone. For stubborn deodorant transfers on garments that aren't dry clean only, wash with soap and lukewarm water. You can also add white vinegar to the mixture if you have it on hand. For deodorant stains, use an oxy formulated or bleach alternative stain remover.

Washing Knits – Follow the hand washing instructions for knits and sweater knits. To neutralize any odor, add a small amount (1/4 cup) of white vinegar. Follow stain removal instructions for sweater knits, but be careful not to agitate or brush them too abrasively, as you don't want to disrupt the yarn structure.

Drying Knits – If you hang wet knits to dry, they will stretch out and distort. The best way to dry knits is to lay them out on a towel and then roll the towel up like a sleeping bag. Make sure not to distort the shape of sweaters when drying - this is a good way to reshape a stretched out sweater as well. Use a sweater stone or sweater comb to remove pilling.


To store plisse garments, collapse and roll the garment along the direction of the pleats (not against the pleats) and store loosely in a drawer. Do not hang or they will typically stretch out. Plisse pieces usually do not wrinkle and are great for travel.

For Issey Miyake Pleats Please and Homme Plisse styles, you can hand wash or machine wash on cold/delicate and lay flat to dry. For plisse pieces by other designers, follow the washing directions on the label. Never machine dry, steam or dry clean plisse - exposing these garments to heat releases the pleats.


Storage – Shoe and bag storage matter for leather shoes and accessories. Using shoe trees for shoe storage and stuffing leather bags will help maintain their perfect shape. Use the shoe bags that come with your shoes for seasonal storage or travel.

Water – Always wipe off water from leather shoes and accessories as soon as possible, as water will dry out your leather. Try to rotate your leather shoes and bags as much as possible to give them time to fully dry and air out after wearing.

Cleaning – For leather shoes, use a shoe brush to clean off debris from your shoes. Next use a gentle leather cleaner and then a leather conditioner which can be applied with a rag. You can stop here or proceed with polish using a brush and rag. Polish will fill in the scratches and wear on a shoe. We do not recommend polishing a leather bag. For suede shoes and accessories, use a suede buffer to keep them in mint condition.

Sneakers – To clean your sneakers, set up a bowl of warm water and use your hand washing detergent or a sneaker-specific cleaner. Knock off any debris from your sneakers, remove the laces and then take a dry rag and wipe them down. Use a rag and a toothbrush with your detergent solution to clean the shoes. A magic sponge will sometimes help with stubborn stains. Hand or machine wash your laces (or order a new pair). Leave everything to dry overnight.

Weatherproofing – There are many weatherproofing sprays on the market for leather shoes, bags and sneakers. Try to find a spray specific for shoes, as they will be gentler.


Living in NYC, we are surrounded by genius artisans who can repair almost anything. If you live elsewhere, often your dry cleaner can recommend a repair person if they don't do repairs or alterations.

If the lining is destroyed from wear on a beloved winter coat, pay to get it re-lined. If your favorite sweater has a hole, get it darned. 
As soon as you notice the damage on a piece of clothing in your rotation, you should stop wearing it to increase the chances that it can be fixed  A few repair and alteration spots we like are Laura & Melinda and Tailors Atelier

If you live in NYC and invest in shoes, we highly recommend having a shoe cobbler on hand who can add rubber soles to any shoes with leather soles. This small step will easily double the life of your shoes. A cobbler/shoe repair person can also weatherproof your shoes or stretch them out if you have wider feet. Locally, we go to North 11 Shoe Repair. Dino's Shoe Repair near Columbus Circle also does very good work.

For denim, it’s best to take your pieces to someone who specializes in denim repair vs a regular alterations spot. They can both alter and hem your denim and repair holes and tears. We like Self Edge, Denim Therapy and Brooklyn Denim Co.

If you have a grommet or snap that breaks, you'll need to take it to a shop who has the machinery to fix it. In NYC, we go to Steinlauf and Stoller.  

Detergent image via Tangent Garment Care

By R Smith — May 15, 2020